Divorce rate rising in Salyan where child marriage continues unabatedLack of awareness, mentorship and financial constraints contribute to early marriages leading to divorces, say experts.
A 20-year-old woman had eloped with a man four years ago. After a strained marriage and one child, she sought divorce from her husband two years ago citing physical and mental torture inflicted by him.
The Salyan District Court granted her divorce a year ago.
The resident of Jayachaur in Chhatreswari Rural Municipality-4 was only 16 when she ran away with a man two years older than her. She has been staying with her maternal family since the time she filed for divorce.
A 15-year-old girl from Tribeni Rural Municipality-4 married her 17-year-old boyfriend in 2015. Two years into the marriage, the husband went abroad for foreign employment leaving behind his wife and daughter in Tulsipur of Dang district. The husband returned home last year to a wife he suspected of having an extramarital affair. The wife too accused her husband of the same. Failing to work on their marriage, they filed for divorce at the Salyan District Court. Three months ago the court issued its decision granting them divorce.
A few days ago, a 24-year-old woman from Chhayanath in Kapurkot-6 came to the district headquarters for legal counselling. She met with an advocate to inquire about the divorce procedure.
Married at 13, she wanted her marriage to work but with irreconcilable differences between her husband’s family and her, she decided to seek a legal course for separation.
“I didn’t want to divorce but my husband and his family harassed me under various pretexts. I tried hard to reconcile with my husband, but to no avail,” said the 24-year-old mother of an eight-year-old son. “I finally decided to seek a divorce. The legal process is underway at the court.”
Salyan, a hill district of Karnali Province, has been seeing a rise in divorce cases among young married couples for the last few years, according to data available at the Salyan District Court.
A total of 235 people filed for divorce at the court in the fiscal year 2021-22, the district court data show. As many as 266 similar cases were registered in the last fiscal year of 2022-23. More than 50 percent of those divorce seekers are couples below 20 years of age.
“One of the reasons behind the rise in divorce cases among young people is early marriage. Child marriage is still unchecked in Salyan,” said Giri Raj Gautam, a judge at the district court. “Marriage is a commitment and most young boys and girls do not have the maturity to commit. Most divorce seekers are young adults in their early 20s who married in their teens.”
Child marriage was banned in the country in 1963, but the practice is still rampant, especially in rural areas. As per the Civil Code Act 2017, the legal age of marriage for both women and men in Nepal is 20 years.
Lack of awareness, education, mentorship and financial difficulties contribute to early marriages which in turn lead to divorces, says Chandra Bahadur Budhathoki, a social campaigner based in Salyan.
“Immature youths jump into marriages on a whim. They are yet to develop insight into adult relationships which leaves them unarmed for the challenges adult relationships face,” said Budhathoki. “While some couples file for divorce for major genuine reasons like physical and mental abuse, others want to separate from their spouses because of minor disputes.”
Legal practitioner Chandra Prakash Oli says he represented 109 young people in their early 20s seeking a divorce in the last fiscal year. “In most cases, the couples had married in their teens and were seeking a divorce in their early 20s,” he said.
According to Budhathoki, the saga of unhappy marriage does not end with divorce but permeates into the lives of their children. “Men usually get married again while women go abroad looking for work leaving behind their children with their grandparents. In either case, it’s the children who have to suffer. Broken relationships affect children negatively,” he said.